Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Five Minute Friday: Limit

A late post but I was drawing a blank ... until today. Here it is - 5 minutes of free writing on the word limit.

Two weeks of sickness in two littles. But it’s ok. We keep going, my husband and I. I can handle the days because I know he’s there to support in the evenings. But then the weekend hits, those girls start looking worse. It’s been 2.5 weeks now and they are just not getting better. Monday holiday comes and baby’s fever spikes and, worse of all, hubby get sick too. I’m a man down and have to do it all. I feel like I’ve reached my limit. Exhausted, running back and forth to the clinic and pharmacy – ear infection (baby), sinus infections (both girls). It’s a long day. I want to cry. Meds kick in, things look better. Nice evening supper. Then it hits, the virus that kicks all other viruses butts. This one’s a doozy, this one’s violent beyond all others we’ve seen. This mama is exhausted. I want to cry I want to give up. But it’s hubby and the middle who need me. Hold my girl while the heaving rolls across her body. She cries because it hurts, because she’s just tired of it all, she just wants it to stop. Oh, I hear you baby girl! My limit has been extended – my family needs me. Groceries. Need groceries. The baby needs her milk, can’t do without that. Want to sleep. Is this my limit? Have I reached it yet? Can I cry and sleep and cry some more? Last night I fell asleep with Chris Rice’s lyrics:

Can you spare an angel tonight
send a little help from your side?
‘Cause somebody’s lost down here.
Let him wing his way through the dark,
carry some of your love into her heart.
Can you spare an angel, spare and angle, spare an angel?

My limit has grown. He spared an angel. We made it through.

Photo credit to Chris Rice's website:

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Journey to Relational Prayer: The PAPA Prayer - Relational Prayer is About God and Me

I have finished reading chapter 6 of The PAPA Prayer by Dr. Larry Crabb, and finished writing my notes. I think this chapter might have been one of the most eye opening. There seems to be a continually increasing amount of words I hear and books or articles I read that coincide with what I read in this book and that is good! It means I think about it more and ponder the importance of it so much more!

So I open first with a  quote:

"I'm afraid we'll merely play with the PAPA prayer for a day or two and not really pray it as a lifestyle, unless we get rid of the notion that the center of prayer is asking for things. The true center of prayer, it's real point, is relating to God" (p. 37).

Isn't that the truth?!! The whole beginning of this book, even though, yes, I want a deep relationship with God, still at the forefront is the thought, "OK, I'll do this, I'll get prayer right, and then God will give me what I want!" Sounds an awful lot like Pastor Brian's sermon a couple of weeks ago (January 24) on 'life under God'!!

The thing is, I do want a deep relationship with God, but I'm holding back! What's holding me back?! Darran (my amazing husband), says it's because I don't trust that God is good and I'm afraid He'll ask something of me that I don't want to do. Hmm, makes sense! In my head I know God is good!! But in my heart, do I trust Him with my life? Always we want to cling to control! And afraid of what He'll ask of me? Yeah, I'm terrified! For some reason, I think I like the way I am and my life as it is. Dare I say that, sometimes perhaps, it seems as though God is there but not entirely necessary? Wow! That sounds a lot like Pastor Brian's sermon this past Sunday (January 31) - 'life over God'! I think I'm really going to need to listen carefully to the rest of that series!

So do you really want to be in relationship with God? Let's do this! Give up the idea that prayer is about getting things and embrace the fact that prayer is first and foremost about relating to God - being in relationship with Him!

So I wonder, the person who has lived half her life with Rheumatoid Arthritis, and has a deep relationship with God, does she pray for healing? I don't think so! Do the people around her pray for healing for her? I think they do, at least most of them. I think they pray for her healing because they (we) assume that's what we're supposed to pray for. But, instead of praying for healing, should we not pray that God is glorified through that disease? Instead of praying for an end to suffering, should we not pray that God is glorified in that suffering? Instead of praying for an end to poverty, should we not pray that God is glorified in that poverty? Why does God allow hardships? That we might glorify Him through them. Why did God not remove the "thorn in the flesh" from Paul? That God might be glorified through it! What is the chief end of man? To glorify Him and enjoy Him forever! That means to be in relationship with Him!! Why did God create us? For His own glory! EVERYTHING is about glorifying God! How can we glorify God in all things? By being in deep relationship with Him!

"But we don't naturally think of prayer as an opportunity to relate with God. Most of us find our prayer lives dominated by asking God for things. For most of us, that's what prayer is. ... But if we hold to it, if we keep on believing that prayer is more about getting things than getting God, not only will we eventually get thoroughly confused when prayer doesn't 'work', but talking to God will at some point feel boring as well. If we're honest" (p. 37).

Dr. Crabb gives a personal example of praying a relational prayer. Much too lengthy to include in my notes but it was in regards to friends of him and his wife and the basic frame he gives, which they followed in their prayer, is:
     present yourself to God (tell how you feel, where you're coming from) (e.g. a rebellious child return's home)
     attend to how you picture God in the situation (e.g. The Father in the parable of the Prodigal Son who runs to meet his returning son)
     purging by confessing your weaknesses/sin (e.g. "Lord I feel really cynical of this person's apparent change of heart")
     approach God in relationship
Then they could bring their petitions to God. "Relational prayer released petitionary prayer" (p. 39).

"Petitioning without relationship - that's what our praying so often amounts to, even though it's well disguised" (p. 41) Rather a sad thought, really!

"Our prayers of communion and worship sometimes have more to do with staying on God's good side in order to get more blessings than with building our relationship with Him. The idea of knowing God and being known by Him just doesn't seem that important" (p. 41). (Or, perhaps, just downright terrifying??)

Dr. Crabb gives a couple of illustrations: children in the summer looking for the ice-cream man, not because they care about him but because they want ice-cream; children sit on Santa's knee, don't care to get to know him or see how he's doing, just give their list of things they want and hop right off. "We Christians call it prayer", he says (p. 41). Ouch!!

Prayer, we're told (and, for those who've grown up in Reformed churches, memorized) is the most important part of our thankfulness. God wants us to know Him and how do we respond? "Gimme! Gimme!" If someone does something incredibly kind for you, how do you respond? With "oh that was nice, now I also want you to do this, this and give me this"?? No! That would be ungrateful! We respond by wanting to get to know that person, wanting to understand what motivated him, spend time just being with him, develop friendship with him! Why, then, is our "relationship" with God mor of a list of demands than a determined effort to really know Him?! If prayer is the most important part of our thankfulness, why do we show our so-called thankfulness by simply giving a list of demands?! "Oh, and I love You, Lord!!" we tack on awkwardly, like a child who thinks that simply saying "I love you" will get her what she wants. (I've seen it in my own children.) We try to manipulate GOD!

Dr. Crabb shows this when he says, "Petitionary prayers that are offered with no real thought of getting to know God through relational prayer eventually become the rantings of a spoiled brat. ... The devil stacks the shelves with tasty items, and, in our flesh, we pray, 'Give me this. I want that. In Jesus name and for His glory, amen' " (p. 41).

"So many of our requests are good and legitimate. Some are truly other-centered. But we're still asking for things without really knowing who it is we're talking to, so we can't really hear His voice" (p. 42). There-in lies the problem, What we ask for might be good things, but if we don't bother to know the One we're asking, how can we discern if what we ask is His will??

"We hear only ourselves and hope He's listening. ... Let the Giver stop giving, and we throw a tantrum. We think of it as fervent prayer" (p. 42).

So this we must first understand if we are to enjoy the PAPA prayer, if it is to flow naturally from us, that "the chief purpose of prayer is not to get things from God. Neither is it to praise or thank Him from a distance. The chief purpose of prayer is to get to know God, to deepen our relationship with Him, to nourish the life of God He's already placed within us, and to do it all to satisfy His desire for relationship with us" (p. 42).

And Jesus taught us to pray relationally, with a model prayer "to guide us in our conversations with Papa" (p. 43). This is, of course, The Lord's Prayer, and it looks like we get to learn more about that in the next chapter.

My series on this book on relational prayer can be found here.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

But I Said Please!! (The PAPA Prayer - Chapter 5)

I have finally made more progress in The PAPA Prayer by Dr. Larry Crabb. Here are my notes on Chapter 5: The Prayer of a Spoiled Child.

John 14:14 - You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

"Petitionary prayer is a good thing. Jesus told us to ask Him for whatever we want" (p 25). But ...? I think this chapter answers that 'but'. :)

We're given an example of the persistent widow - you know the story that Christ told, the widow who keeps petitioning the judge until he finally gives her what she wants? And Jesus says, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? ... " But all over the world we see sincere people, people we'd describe as godly or holy, constantly pleading with God but receiving no response! Why?!

"Does praying make any real difference in what happens?" (p.28)
What's the point of asking, you may wonder, if we never seem to get a response?? Then Dr. Crabb reminds us of the words of James 1:6-8 - "But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do."

So how can anyone expect to receive what they ask for? Who on earth always has utter and complete confidence??

Then in Matthew 17:20, Jesus tells us that even a little amount of faith (the size of a mustard see) will move mountains! Doesn't that show that it's not about complete confidence?

"Don't many of us have at least the bare minimum? Then why are so many mountains in our lives still sitting in the same spot? It isn't that we haven't prayed, and with at least some faith." (p. 29)

We are shown one more verse, this one from the Old Testament: "How gladly would I treat you like sons and give you a desirable land" (Jeremiah 3:19).

Says Dr. Crabb: "What's stopping Him? Maybe there's a problem with the way we pray. Or maybe it's the way we don't pray. Consider this: we do a lot more asking of God than relating to God. ... Here's a second thought, and it's revolutionary: maybe petitionary prayer is supposed to come after relational prayer" (p, 29).

Dr. Crabb gives a personal story of a trip to NYC with his son (who was about 8 at the time). They were playing a little game of hide-and-seek in Central Park when suddenly the boy thought he'd lost his dad forever! When he saw his dad he wanted to stay close to him and keep his eyes on him at all times. Dr. Crabb says maybe our prayers need to be like that - nestled up close to Him, our eyes always on Him. Or, as Pastor Kasey said in his sermon yesterday morning (November 8, 2015), like a small child cuddled up in His lap, content and comforted.

"The great need of people in the church today, and perhaps in your life, is to better relate to God. And the best way for all of us to do that is to find a plan for our time of prayer that draws us near to God for the sheer joy of encounter before we ask Him for a thing" (p. 31).

The sheer joy of encounter! Where has that joy gone? When did monotony and lifeless, hopeless prayer replace that joy?!

"We'll never understand petitionary prayer until we learn to practice relational prayer ..." (p. 31).

So, this is about relational prayer! Build relationship with God before you ask for things. This relationship is foundational to petition. "Unless we become as little children who approach our heavenly Papa just to be near Him, something in our hearts will keep us confused and frustrated when we ask God for what we want" (p. 31, emphasis mine).

We can restore our relationship pith God to what it should be.

Larry Crabb speaks of petitionary prayer as a privilege that comes from relationship with God.

"Relational prayer is the centre of all true prayer. The power of petitionary prayer depends on the centrality of relational prayer" (p. 32).

"If you abide in my, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples." John 15:7-8 What does this mean? When you have deep relationship with God/Christ, your petitionary prayer will be effective. And how do you abide in Him and show this relationship? "Bear much fruit and so prove to be [His] disciples."

"If we share Christ's passion for His Father and dedicate ourselves at any cost to the purpose of bringing heaven's kingdom to earth by revealing the Father's character in all our relationships, then our petitions will reflect the mind of Christ - and they will be answered" (p. 33).

"Only on the ground of relationship with God, restored through redemption and nourished through relational prayer, can we properly worship, unselfishly thank God for blessings, intercede for others, and ask things for ourselves" (p. 33).

If you would like to see previous post in this series, they can be found here.